David Nightingale

David Nightingale: Steinmetz (4/9/1865 - 10/26/1923 )

Apr 19, 2015

When 24 yr old Steinmetz arrived in New York harbor in 1889 he was nearly turned back. His frail and stunted body, his inability to speak English, plus no money, caused the immigration officials to reject him, for fear he might become a "public charge". Fortunately, the friend he had travelled with, who could speak English, assured the officials that he would personally look after him, and cover any debts, adding that Steinmetz had graduated in mathematics at the top of his class, in the Prussian city of Breslau (now part of Poland).

 Spring has sprung—what better now than a little review of atomic physics.

David Nightingale: Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Mar 15, 2015


          Men seldom make passes
          At girls who wear glasses ...  [ref.1 p.79]

...wrote Dorothy Parker, and...

          Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
          A medley of extemporanea;
          And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
          And I am Marie of Roumania.     [(ref.1 p.62]

Margaret Mead is an international icon, although after her death she was severely challenged by other anthropologists, notably the New Zealander Derek Freeman. This little essay is only about her earlier life.

Her father, an alumnus of Indiana's DePauw University, had insisted his daughter go there also, but after two years she transferred to Columbia's Barnard College in Manhattan.

David Nightingale: E.O.Wilson (1929 - )

Feb 12, 2015

Evolutionary biology is an enormous subject and I have no training in it. But to read from whence we came is of widespread interest. We may read from Darwin, or Stephen Jay Gould, or Wallace, or Dawkins, or even my old high school friend W.D.Hamilton, but this brief essay looks at the evolutionary biologist E.O.Wilson. Because of time constraints it will of course not do him justice.

David Nightingale: Robert Burns

Jan 25, 2015

  "Read the exquisite songs of Burns", wrote Tennyson. "In shape each of them has the perfection of the berry; in light the radiance of the dewdrop."  (Ref.3,frontispiece)

People in many parts of the world remember Jan 25th, for the birth of that self-described (quote) 'unregenerate heathen' ,who once announced he would dine nowhere where he could not "eat like a Turk, drink like a fish and swear like the Devil" (ref.4,p.131).

Advertised on TV, amongst videos for Nissans flying over snowy half-pipes, or an attractive Toyota lady exhorting us to 'let's go places', companies offering TV-plus-internet-plus-phone are talking "4G LTE". There must be many experts who know what "4G LTE" means, but the people I asked, both young and old, didn't. Actually, I didn't even find one who knew. I'm not a computer-trained person, so, for what it's worth, here's what one may find on the internet.

It was a month to the end of my sojourn in the Middle East.

David Nightingale: Medical Measurements

Dec 7, 2014

I was surprised at my recent physical, to find that height and weight were to be measured with or without clothing.

David Nightingale: Boko Haram

Nov 18, 2014

Boko Haram is the group in northern Nigeria that kidnapped over 200 high school girls earlier this year. Half of those 200 students had returned to the boarding school, which had been closed because of previous attacks, to take a physics exam. Those girls have not been found, and the Boko Haram perpetrators now report that the teenagers are 'married off' and, in a few cases, killed.

David Nightingale: Schrodinger's “Cat”

Nov 2, 2014

The Vienna-born Erwin Schrodinger had sent papers on many topics from the trenches during his sevice as an artillery officer in WW1 – as mentioned in my essay of 2 weeks ago. By the mid-1920s he had been an important contributor to the new and revolutionary world of the quantum – along with Einstein and others.

David Nightingale: Erwin Schroedinger (1889-1961)

Oct 18, 2014

When Schrodinger was a student in Vienna, Adolf Hitler, “twice rejected as an art student [ref.1, p.5], [and] having pawned his overcoat to buy bread and milk, was prowling about the snowy streets ... trying to sell... pictures of Viennese churches...” [Ref.1, p.5]

David Nightingale: Some Roman Writings

Oct 5, 2014

When Julius Caesar marauded his way across Europe and England, with his legions and wooden boats, shields and swords and arrows, he later wrote much of these adventures down, either on papyrus scrolls or wax, but although the mighty Roman Empire was formed from barbaric warfare and killing, there were many Romans constructing bridges and aqueducts, poems and books. Much of this is still in evidence today – for example, the aqueducts feeding Rome, and the writings of the likes of Ovid and Catullus and Pliny.

David Nightingale: Caesar's invasions Of England

Sep 11, 2014

When Julius Caesar attacked England he described the Brits as (quote) “...barbarians... with long hair … who shave their bodies except for head and lip … paint themselves with (dark blue) woad... and groups of 10 or 12 share their wives... offspring being held to be the children of him to whom the maiden was brought first...” [ref.1, pp.153-154].

David Nightingale: August 2014

Aug 31, 2014

It's still summer time, but there've been a few unwelcome yellow leaves in our road.

David Nightingale: Marcus Aurelius (121-180)

Aug 22, 2014

Little the life each lives,” wrote Marcus Aurelius, “little the corner of the earth he lives in, little even the longest fame hereafter, and even that dependent on a succession of poor mortals, who will very soon be dead, and have not learnt to know themselves much less the man who was dead long years ago...” [Ref.1, p.599.]

David Nightingale: J.Willard Gibbs (1839-1903)

Aug 10, 2014

Josiah Willard Gibbs was a contemporary of Mark Twain, and while Walt Whitman was enjoying the popularity of “Leaves of Grass”, and Dickens' final and unfinished novel “Edwin Drood” had just been published, J.Willard Gibbs was quietly working single-handedly at Yale on subjects that benefit mankind even today. This complex work, however, is not commonly known to a large segment of the reading public.

David Nightingale: Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Jul 27, 2014

What better, for summer reading, than the writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez?

David Nightingale: Fighting & Faiths

Jul 13, 2014

  As astronauts look down on a bright blue-and-white ball, seeing our unique yet fragile home, they don't see, of course, a color map of the world's religions. With night and day passing every 88 minutes, they observe tranquil areas, typhoons, flooded areas, possibly occasional volcanoes – beauty and trouble that nature deals us, and about which we can do nothing.

The colors on a religious color map of the globe shows all of the Americas plus Russia as Christian (pale yellow) and, in green, most of north Africa and the Middle East plus Indonesia as Islamic.

The Chief Engineer on the Catskill Aqueduct was Jonas Waldo Smith, born in 1861 in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Now 2000 years ago, Sextus Julius Frontinus–one-time governor of the minor Roman province of Britain–had been appointed (in his retirement) Water Commissioner for the city of Rome. This was a position of consular rank that entailed responsibility for all Rome's water, conveyed into the capital via half a dozen major aqueducts, like Aqua Marcia, Aqua Claudia, and others.

David Nightingale: Metronidazole

Jun 15, 2014

The doctor wrote the prescription in that Sanskrit that pharmacists are fortunately familiar with, and I took it immediately to the drug store. The swelling on my nose had been pre-cancerous, and I didn't want to delay.

David Nightingale: Alexander the Great

May 4, 2014

It's possible to go by train from London all the way to India, in principle, and it's also possible to go to India overland, in principle – especially with a four-wheel drive. After Europe, the train goes from Istanbul right across Turkey (with a ferry across huge Lake Van), right across Iran, right across Pakistan, and on to India.

The four-wheel-drive jeep route, from Istanbul to India, sometimes referred to as the “Hippie Trail," follows some of the “Silk Road” trade routes between China and Europe.

David Nightingale: Small Towns

Apr 24, 2014

When considering a place to live, many people go for small towns, where there is frequently friendliness, trust, character and beauty. Additional qualities such as farmland, rivers, possibly mountains are all part of the mix, as are coffee shops, a book store, a library, maybe even a college campus. Fresh air is a plus – and maybe some trails for walking or biking.

David Nightingale: A Coup In Turkey In 1963

Mar 29, 2014

There had been a roar, waking me up, and as I rubbed my eyes I realized there'd been a whole background of roars, which hadn't exactly been dreams.

David Nightingale: Fair Elections, Revisited

Mar 13, 2014

Our voting has slowly developed from 'white males' with property qualifications, to the inclusion of women (by the 19th Amendment of 1920). Now, in 2014, there are still privileged entities (read 'deep pocket corporations') attempting to sway our votes, and looking back, it's astonishing that so many countries in the world excluded so many groups.

David Nightingale: Michael Faraday (1791-1867)

Feb 23, 2014

Among many people who have benefited humanity so permanently was the book binder's apprentice, Michael Faraday.

His mother was a farmer's daughter, and his father was a blacksmith.

“My education consisted of little more...” he wrote “....than the rudiments of reading, writing and arithmetic at a common day school … and my hours out of school were passed at home and in the streets”[ref.1 p.77]. This modest, self-educated and hard-working man would later turn down a knighthood, as well as two offers to be President of the Royal Society.

At five,  I take the old farm path, past the horses.

The sky is purple, with long stretches and swaths of other colors across the silent evening, one horizon to another. Some previous snow is still clinging to the north sides of barren trees, as well as lying on a few upper branches. Hard to believe there'll be greenery again, one day.

David Nightingale: James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879)

Feb 2, 2014
James Clerk Maxwell
By Fergus of Greenock via Wikimedia Commons

Every moment of every day, worldwide, we all  realize one of the profound predictions of James Clerk Maxwell – which was that something called radio waves, traveling at the same speed as that of light, must exist.

There've been other profound predictions in science of course – for example, astronomer Le Verrier's prediction about where to find the planet Neptune.

But this little essay is about a man who was initially called 'Dafty' at school – born in Scotland in 1831, and who lived for only 48 years.

David Nightingale: Christmas in Turkey, 1961

Jan 2, 2014

Christmas in the Middle East, 1961. The Moslem headmaster had insisted we take the Christian holiday, although we hadn't asked for it.

David Nightingale: On Henry Cavendish (1731-1810)

Nov 15, 2013

Some refer to Cavendish as 'the man who weighed the earth', but it would be more accurate to describe him as a man who spent his life as a careful investigator in chemistry, heat and electricity.